2.03 Mary Demuth // How the church should respond to the sexual abuse crisis

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Mary Demuth, author of We Too joins us to continue this conversation. Together, we explore how to create safer environments for the prevention of abuse. 

We discuss the way accounts of sexual assault in the Bible are interpreted.  Often, stories that describe sexual assault in the Bible are talked about in ways that shift the focus onto something other than the abuse that took place.  Sometimes the passages are even talked about in ways that are victim-blaming.  Mary talks about viewing these passages descriptively, which clearly shows God’s condemnation of sexual violence.  Throughout the Bible, there are always serious consequences for sexual violence. 

Power abuse and consent cannot coexist.  When the person with more power wants something, the person with less power often has a lot to lose if they say no.  We see this play out when an adult abuses a child, when a spiritual leader abuses a congregation member, and when a husband abuses a wife.  Specifically, regarding rape within marriage, teaching that a woman’s body does not belong to her but to her husband promotes rape culture by nullifying the need for consent.  When you have a system where women’s voices are silenced, that system is rife for abuse.  

Trauma has a significant impact on a person.  This is often evident in the way a trauma survivor shows up in a community with a significant amount of fear and distrust.  Survivors of the trauma of abuse need to be met by followers of Jesus with acceptance and empathy.  Unfortunately, many of the most common responses to survivors of sexual violence are harmful and detrimental to healing.  Mary talks about why victim-blaming is such a common occurrence.  

We discuss the baffling truth that perpetrators often receive more grace in churches than victims of sexual abuse.  We must listen to and love the survivor first.  But what about the perpetrator? Mary explains that to love a perpetrator is to tell the truth and to seek justice and consequences for what they have done.  Love is not covering over sin; love is exposing sin.  Church leadership and culture must care more about humility and the exposure of sin than about preserving reputations.  

Sexual assault and many kinds of abuse are not only sins, but also crimes.  It is always necessary and important to report the abuse of a minor to the proper authorities.  Whenever possible, it is important to respect the agency of adult victims to decide whether to report crimes committed against them.  Reporting can be a very positive step to take for many, and it can help prevent predators from abusing others, but there are often complicating factors, and the victim’s right to decide needs to be respected.  You can visit www.rainn.org for more information about reporting assault.

We at the All At Once Podcast and Mary Demuth love the church.  Our common goal is to bring truth and healing where it is desperately needed.  We, as followers of Jesus, need to do better as we respond to cases of abuse in our congregations and communities.


Music by Kate Short; Instagram @kate_tshort

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Episode produced, edited, and mixed by Kelly Browning; show notes written by Sarah McDuffee, Marketing Director: Robyn Boren, Social Media Manager: Molly Baize


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